What if Auron had never gone to Zanarkand after the start of Braska's Calm? What if he had gone to Besaid instead, to care for young Yuna? What if Tidus had grown up alone and an orphan in Zanarkand...
...And what if Sin came and took him into Spira anyway?
Title: Wages of Sin, Prologue I (Tidus version)
Fandom: FFX, FFX-2 AU
Writers: parron, muggy_mountain
Zanarkand buzzed like the hive it was, shimmering with neon and humming with electricity. High above it, perched on a roof's edge with legs dangling over the street, Tidus felt nothing but scorn. That was normal for him. The building was by day and evening the head of the Sphere Broadcasting Network, source of all of Zanarkand's news, the tallest in the eastern sector of the city and so the best vantage point over it. It was a gleaming tall building, reflecting night in all of its glass windows.
Tidus pulled himself to his feet, a stray wind blowing his dark hair briefly into his eyes. The SBN had decorated their roof with odd horizontal beams stretching out unconnected to anything but their wall, purposeless and decorated with flashing colored lights. They were a few inches shy of sidewalk width, but slippery due to the polished metal. Tidus climbed up onto the corner one carefully. He'd done it before, but the winds were stronger here and the drop was precarious. More than precarious. The lights of the street were pinpricks.
The view was worth it.
Zanarkand was never quiet, never dark, but up here in the cold was the closest Tidus had ever come to it. Like this, standing on the edge of the beam as through it were a diving board—the only way Tidus could safely step was backwards. Unless he felt like dying. Up here everything was dark, everything but the electric lights and dim stars. Tidus was surrounded. The wind was cold and occasionally threatened to knock him off balance, off the edge.
It was here that Tidus thought of death. He wasn't suicidal, no, but sometimes—just while he was thinking, just something his mind skipped over, a worry stone worn smooth. He didn't want to die, he knew that. He simply wasn't certain if he was happy living, either. Not simply. 'Simple' had nothing to do with it.
Tidus scanned the Zanarkand skyline and alighted his gaze on the Blitzball Stadium. It was lit brighter than most of the rest of the city, searchlights and beams causing the whole area to appear as a mass of white. The Dome in the center glowed pale blue. There was a game tonight, although against who, Tidus didn't know. Tidus hated Blitzball, he never really payed attention.
His father had died when he was seven. Ten years ago, and Tidus could still remember it clearly. There hadn't been much to remember. Jecht had been a Blitzball star, the star, his name a household word. Especially in their own house. Jecht had left one morning to go swimming in the ocean, Blitz training. He hadn't come back.
It was what had come after that Tidus really remembered. Sharp fragments. His mother, glassy eyed. There had been a segment on the news, a famous anchor somberly narrating: "He is survived by a wife and son."
Not for long, though. Tidus' mother was dead by his eighth birthday. It seemed longer, he thought. She had gotten sick right away, within a month of Jecht's funeral. All he could remember of her was coughing and a sallow complexion. A distant gaze. She had held on to her life first until she knew that her husband wouldn't return. And when she had realized he wouldn't... Well. There was another funeral. The fact that she had had a young son hadn't seemed to have mattered to her.
Tidus lived with foster parents now. When he was young, he used to dream of someone—not his father, someone cool—coming to rescue him, someone who would be his real dad. Someone who didn't make fun of him or laugh at him. Or ask him to do stupid things like playing Blitzball, just because Jecht had.
Tidus hated water, just on principle. He glared at the city spread before him. The wind kept blowing his hair in his face. His eyes stung from it. There was one moment—a particularly strong gust of wind. Just for a second he leant to the side—
—you don't really want to do that, do you?—
—"Nah," he muttered. He liked living, screwed up as that was. Tidus turned carefully and walked back to the rooftop. The lights of Zanarkand blurred. He took a moment, a little longer, letting thoughts drift away from him, slip away without being concentrated on—he stared into space, calm and still. Then he picked himself up, shoving rough dark hair from his forehead, and headed down the roof-top's emergency stairs.
Although office hours were long over, the SBN was still open. This was Zanarkand, after all. Although not as busy as it would have been during the day, there were still enough people around that Tidus took the back lift down. He wasn't supposed to use their roof, so it seemed wise to try and avoid others.
The joke of it, if there was one, was that it was after Tidus had gotten outside that he was noticed. He hadn't been surprised, however. He recognized the producer, a trim, dark haired woman. He'd seen her many times before. She worked for the sports section of the SBN, and periodically did segments on Jecht, segments with names like "The Man Behind The Star" and "Eight Years, Three Months, And The Heartbreak That Remains." Tidus thought she was full of shit. She thought he was an impudent brat.
But not enough of a brat to dissuade her from trying to include him in every last one of her Jecht features. Tidus always said no. She always worked him in anyway.
She hurried over to him before Tidus could more than briefly consider how to escape, flipping up the lid of her NoteTaker as she walked. "Tidus," she said, not bothering with a greeting and knowing full well that he was on the verge of making a break for it. The screen of her NoteTaker glowed blue as it began to transcribe their conversation.
"I'm not interested in an interview." he said.
"Tidus," the woman repeated. She spoke very quickly. "With the anniversary of your father's death approaching, how do you feel? It's been ten years. Does that make the pain feel any greater? Does that remind you of how long it has been since you have seen your father's face, how long it has been since you have heard his voice? Does it bring fresh pain to your heart, knowing this and finally realizing that you will never see or hear him again?"
"Nope," Tidus said. "You said it yourself. It's been ten years. I can barely remember the jerk, and from what I do remember, I'm pretty glad he's dead." The woman's face fell. "What was your name, again?" he added.
She looked at him like he was something unpleasant on the bottom of her shoe. "Have you no respect for your father? Jecht was—is—an inspiration to all of Zanarkand!"
"He was a drunk!" Tidus snapped back, "and he's dead! D-E-A-D. He isn't coming back, ever, and if he did it certainly wouldn't be because he liked your stupid fake documentaries!"
The producer glowered and sputtered and then finally smirked. "You know, let's work with that. 'The Darker Side'—no, I'll think of something catchier later." she was clearly composing aloud, glancing at the NoteTaker every other second to be sure it was copying her correctly, "'Unfounded accusations from a grieving son. Tidus, age sixteen—'"
"I'm seventeen," Tidus pointed out, angry and somehow curious despite himself as to the crap this woman was coming up with.
"Whatever. 'The boy claims that his father, Zanarkand's own hero, Jecht, was in fact a terrible, cruel parent. He spun a most tragic tale for our reporters, one of physical abuse and—'"
"He never hit me, that doesn't mean he wasn't an ass," Tidus snapped.
"So you are making it up!" The woman looked like she had just won some impressive victory. "Face it, dear, you're just a messed up kid—never recovered, perhaps?" Her voice dipped low, into her 'narration' tone. "'Tidus, a troubled child, never fully recovered from his father's tragic death...' How'd you like that, kid? I'll do a whole documentary, just about you! We have great ratings, you know. Your name will be in lights! What do you say?"
"Fuck you," Tidus snapped, then turned and stomped off, heading in the direction of his house and boiling with rage. Like she knew—like anyone knew—so what if she was an idiot, saying things like—Tidus was too angry to even think straight. He hated Jecht. But he hated people like that producer more. People that wanted to overlook all the bad parts. Who pretended that they didn't even exist. People who got so stuck on someone, someone that wasn't even a good person, and—pretended like they were. People stuck on the past.
Tidus seethed the entire way home. It was none of her business—none of anyone's business. Jecht was long dead and good riddance to him; his mother was dead and he missed her even less. They hadn't been good people—good people didn't leave their young sons—even before they had gone, Tidus had been—
He sulked through the metro, glaring at everyone that so much as glanced at him. He sat alone. Tidus let himself get worked up, angry: here he was, he thought—hard life, but he was over that, he was fine, he was perfectly normal—just all those other people. They were the ones—they were the wrong ones. Tidus was the only one that could see it. He knocked past a middle-aged couple as they took too long walking up the sidewalk. Being angry made it hard to keep still, to keep slow.
Tidus' adopted parents looked nothing like him. His father was an engineer, helping to design newer, brighter buildings to replace Zanarkand's already modernly gleaming ones. His mother worked in some office, doing something that involved a lot of paperwork. He was their only child. This wasn't because they couldn't have children of their own, it was because Tidus was so adoptable. It had always bothered him.
His foster parents had been a young, business minded couple. They had had no intentions of having children... but they were Blitz fans. When Jecht's son was suddenly orphaned, they suddenly decided that they wanted to do the right thing and adopt the poor boy. It would have been one thing if they had had other children after Tidus. They hadn't.
It pissed Tidus off. "I'm home," he yelled, as if the apartment door slamming shut behind him hadn't been enough of an indicator of that already. He kicked his boots off and left them sprawled on the entry hall's floor. It was almost ten at night, but no one was home. Not exactly unusual. His parents weren't terrible people, Tidus figured, but to call them a close family was a lie. They had only adopted him because he was Jecht's son. And he only put up with them because they took care of him.
He was turning eighteen in a few months. Then he'd be old enough to get his own apartment and move away. Tidus wandered over to the kitchen and dug around the fridge, pulling out a can of soda after some rummaging. It was a special commemorative "Blitz Can," advertising the start of the Blitz season - the first game, Abes versus Duggles, was later tonight. Each can was decorated with a player from one of Zanarkand's teams. This was was adorned with a tough looking woman with red hair: KARAN, the text yelled, MVP OF THE ABES!
"Stupid," Tidus muttered, putting the soda back and grabbing a carton of milk instead. His parents were probably at the game. They were huge Blitz fans, unlike Tidus. The family kept a dry erase board on the wall by the door to the living room, and he went there next, looking for a note. Sure enough, his foster mother had scrawled one for him in red marker. We'll be at the game! We're looking forward to you coming! Our seats are 22 A, B and C. It'll be fun! Please come, dear. We waited so we could leave together, but you were out with friends. I hope you get this note in time!
"Stupid," Tidus repeated, drinking from his glass of milk. He walked away from the board, ignoring it, before reconsidering and going back to erase the message completely. He hated Blitzball. Why the hell would he want to go to a game? His parents were such idiots.
The apartment was smallish, but big enough for the three of them. The kitchen and dining room had been combined into one large room, and an open doorway lead to the living room. Past that was a hall leading to the bedrooms, Tidus' father's study, and the bathrooms. Tidus' room had a view of the harbor from his window. Years ago, he had taped a picture over the Blitz dome, replacing the sight of it with a photograph of a sandy beach. It was a sort of stupid picture, actually. But still a lot better than having to see the Stadium every time he glanced out the window.
Tidus' room was pretty bare. A bed, a desk with a computer, a chair and a dresser. He didn't spend much time in it. Tidus flopped down backwards onto his bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. He was... bored. No school today or yesterday, so he didn't even have homework to do. He'd spent his entire day wandering around Zanarkand and doing minor trespassing, but his encounter with the reporter had thrown him off what had promised to be several more hours of lurking yet. He was still angry, but in a faded way, a light-bulb covered by a layer or two of cloth. That's always how it was. It was just too tiring to stay angry all the time, be angry at everything annoying, so instead Tidus just put it aside, put it in the back of his mind and tried to ignore it, so that he just simmered instead of boiled. He didn't normally let idiots like that reporter get the best of him—but—
Tidus sat up abruptly and went over to his dresser. Maybe he'd go out after all, to the Blitz game. Not because he liked Blitz—because he didn't, he hated and despised the game, it was stupid and overrated and—and—Tidus suddenly wanted to go see his house. The old houseboat. Where he had lived before. He didn't have any fond memories of his parents, his real parents, but he had liked that house. On the cities outskirts, on the docks, where it had actually gotten dark at night. His bedroom window there had overlooked the city, and instead of traffic he had fallen asleep listening to the lapping of water.
It hadn't all been completely terrible, he thought, somewhat reluctantly. Sometimes Jecht—Tidus had long stopped thinking of him as 'Father'—was in a better mood, not so drunk, jovial with a rough infectious sort of charisma. He'd sprawl in the living room and shout conversations with Tidus and his mother—Mother would smile timid and give Tidus snacks, sitting with Jecht's arm thrown casually over her shoulders, television blazing music and sports. Tidus would be allowed to sit too, drinking milk, mother brushing his hair with her fingers, tugging out snarls.
—it's been ten years, the boy in purple said.
"Not that I miss them," Tidus said irritably. He pulled his clothes off quickly and changed into something more suitable for the cities outskirts. It was always cooler on the water. Dark blue jeans and a black sweatshirt. Tidus didn't look good in dark colors, they matched his brown hair too well and made his skin look pale, but he stubbornly bought them anyway, because he hated fashion and black always matched. Mother used to dress him in collars and slacks, Jecht would give him things in tangerine and marigold—no one he had known was dead, then, and Tidus hadn't had a single gray piece of clothes.
—don't cry, the child said, innocent and vicious.
Tidus shook his head and ran a hand through his messy dark hair. "This is so stupid." So was talking to yourself, he thought bitterly. Why was he suddenly doing this? Going to visit the old house, abandoned or owned by some other people now—some sort of idiots—he should just stay home. Go to bed early. Watch the sphere. Didn't know what he was thinking—Tidus frowned, running his fingers over his sweatshirt to smooth it. He shouldn't bother. Never mind that he was anxious, restless—wanted to get out, go out, move—Unlike him. It was unlike him. Positively weird, now that Tidus thought about it, strange that he would suddenly start thinking of the past, of Jecht, of going to the old house—
—I think it's a good idea. Things may change, yet... the boy smiled and was gone.
—But then again, Tidus was just getting angrier and angrier, pacing around his room. Tacky palm trees taped to his window-glass, blocking the views of the Blitz Stadium—he wanted to get out, and he was just getting worse stuck here. What harm could a quick walk do, anyway? Maybe he wouldn't go to the docks after all. Maybe Tidus would just sulk around town a little. Do more minor trespassing. If you got into the modern art museum in the north part of the city, climbed up on the roof, you could almost see the far off Nameless Mountains. No one had bothered exploring or claiming them; there was no point to leaving the grandeur of the City. If you went to the offices of the Bank, in the west, you could almost see the edge of the world from the rooftop. Should go there, to one of them.
Or maybe not. The problem with over-thinking, it was hard to stop. Tidus climbed onto his bed and tore the photograph from his window, leaving little squares of tape on the glass. The room brightened slightly, the Blitz Dome—roaring—filling his view. Distaste was sharp in his mouth. People said that the smell of the ocean was good for you, calming. Tidus climbed down from the bed, tossing the crumpled poster into a corner. Just a quick visit. "Here I come," said Tidus, affectedly bitter.
Something moved in the waters off Zanarkand. A lone yacht, uninterested in the night's Blitz game and instead enjoying having the ocean to itself, was host to a small party of sports uninterested socialites. One young woman, drinking out on the deck, looked to the sea dreamily. Something called in the waters somewhere close, a snatch of a ghostly song. The woman smiled at the sea, tipsy. Maybe she'd see a whale.
Tidus began to regret his decision immediately. The piers were deserted and mostly dark, people either asleep or attending the ongoing Blitz match. A fog was rolling in, and even the holo-lamps were failing to cut far into the mist. So what if he had lived here, once? That had been years ago. There was no point to visiting here now. Stupid to have indulged himself. Shouldn't have come.
It was getting cold. Tidus had forgotten the way the ocean cooled things on the piers, how it would be chilly here when it was warm in the rest of the city. He brushed his dark hair out of his eyes and wished he had brought a jacket instead of just a thin sweatshirt, fine for casual strolls and papery in the cold and damp. He might as well just turn around, go home. Sulk around the apartment some more, climb to the Bank's roof after all. There was no point to this—
—Tidus whipped his head around, frowning confused. Had someone said something—was that a voice? He thought that he had heard
something calling for him... but the only sound was the soft lapping of waves against the metal piers. Whatever. There was nothing here. This trip was useless, completely useless—Tidus turned around, planning on going home at once, before he had wasted any more time. Stupid place, misty and empty of everything but bitter memories—stupid him, letting himself get creeped out by it all, bugged by it, letting it get to him—it—whatever it was—the constant feeling of alienation, of people looking at Tidus and seeing someone else, seeing someone who was an asshole and dead and gone—Had to get out of here, that was for certain. Had the wind just picked up, or was he just spooking himself more?
No sooner had Tidus thought this than the pier exploded.
Screaming. He gasped and breathed salt water, clamped his mouth shut and tasted blood. His tongue—disjointed. It didn't matter. Water and swirling darkness all around, wood and metal and who knew what else, something else, something—SOMETHING THERE SOMETHING
screaming: screaming: screaming: echoes. He was underwater, he couldn't scream, he couldn't hear, but all he could do was listen, was scream, he was made of sound, he was sound, he was drowning, his lungs were sharp knives in his chest, blood flooded his mouth, his ears burst, he was, he was—
You are. You are. You are you are you are you are my my my my I am I am you are i am
i am are you are we are you you you youyouyouyou
we are you are i am am am
(i know you)
i am you.
He came to in the middle of the ocean. The skies were cloudy gray and the water a darker shade of the same. His eyelashes were rimmed in salt. He stirred. He was clinging to a board that might have once been part of a door, his arms wrapped over the top so tightly that he could barely feel them. His clothes were waterlogged, his legs limp in the water. He had lost a sneaker somehow.
Taking stock was easy, but he ran out of things to take stock of after a few moments. Or seconds—or hours? There was nothing. No waves, no birds, no other debris. Just his door, himself, and an endless sea. Where—
It was difficult to think, difficult to remember. Had something exploded? A fiend attack, an explosion, an
accident? Everything was so empty; the skies, the seas... empty... he started as he realized, jerking slightly in the water. There were no people, no boats, no distant sounds of life. How far had he drifted? How was it possible that no one had come by now? Where was he? How far—
He felt tendrils of panic winding their way up his body, filling his throat and stomach. Surely there would be an explanation. A boat would come. People would investigate the explosion. When night fell, he'd be able to see the city's lights.
But he had never been a good swimmer, his stubborn resistance to all things concerning his father keeping him from anything more than the sort of basic swimming needed to stay afloat in a shallow pool. Even if he saw the lights, how would he get there? He'd drown, starve, dehydrate—freeze. The water he was mostly submerged in seemed to cool at the very thought.
But someone would come. Someone would come. He tightened his grip on the door and scooted up the wood slightly, so that most of his upper body lay atop it. He rested his face against the grain once he was sure his new position wouldn't cause him to capsize or sink.
Despite his fears, he was soon asleep, unconscious and dreamless and exhausted from fear.